All of us, the Mongols, are interested in stock farming. We raise five kinds of livestock together in a large meadow: cows, horses, sheep, goats, and camels. Among them, the sheep we raise the most. Around more than a thousand sheep are kept by one family. Each sheep is white, black, brown, dappled, and so on, with different colours.
I was born a shepherd’s son. I spent my childhood in Bayanmonkh-som (district), Khentii-aimag (province), before I went to university in Ulaanbaatar City. I generally lived separately from my parents to go to school; I went back home in the countryside during the summer break and tended the sheep in the pasture, following my shepherd parents. I came to realise the incredible providence of God through such a lifestyle and experience, which compared the relationship between God and us to that between a shepherd and a flock, and false prophets to wolves.
In spring, sheep give birth. It is when the shepherds are most involved. More than five hundred sheep give birth to their young in a family which has many sheep. Shepherds should minimise their sleep at that time and come regularly in and out of barns to search them. It’s because they don’t know when they’re going to give birth to their young sheep, and they’re still concerned about frozen newborn lambs.
In taking care of their flock, shepherds do their best, just as they love their own children. All the mother sheep and their young in the herds are remembered by most shepherds. The shepherd puts two of them in a separate stable for around four to five days if there is any mother sheep that does not take care of its young, given that it is unfamiliar. Then the rest of mother sheep take care of and feed their young. If a mother sheep neglects her youth to the end, the lamb will die. In this case, with milk, the shepherd feeds the lamb and raises it.
Shepherds lead flocks of sheep every morning to pasture 5 to 6 kilometres [three to four miles] away from home. Wolves are the rivals of shepherds and sheep. As a shadow, wolves pursue the herd. A pack of wolves follow them from afar, climbing hills and mountains from the moment a shepherd leaves home with his flocks. If any sheep give birth on the way to their young ones and are left in a meadow, the wolves run immediately toward them and the lambs are attacked by birds of prey. The shepherd pays great attention to them all the time for this reason.
When the shepherd goes away from the flock of sheep, the wolves come and strike the sheep immediately. Never do they prey on only one sheep. They bite some sheep’s tails, others’ thighs, and the back of the neck. Wolves seriously bite off between fifty to sixty sheep. In addition, mother wolves let the wounded sheep play with their young people to show them how to hunt. The sheep scarcely shift and mourn with agony as they are torn here and there by the wolves. Then the birds of prey swoop in and peck at the wounded sheep’s flesh and eyes.
Originally, the sheep had poor eyesight. What is worse, if they become blind, they want to run away in fear even when the shepherd approaches them, since they confuse the shepherd for a wolf. Yet they are unable to stand up. The shepherd, seeing the injured sheep, calls them out with heartbreaking agony. Since they had known the shepherd and his voice since they were young, when they had listened to his voice, they felt reassured and cried with compassion. The sheep baas, coming down from the mountain, being held in his arms by the shepherd, with a frail and trembling voice as though it were comforted even though it was hurt and distressed.
Shepherds lead flocks of sheep to the richest pasture when the summer arrives, where there is enough water and grass that the sheep want, and they remain there with the sheep, setting up a shelter. It’s because in July and August, the sheep need to be fed well to get chubby so that they can comfortably go through autumn, winter, and spring and conquer the unusually long and extremely cold Mongolian winter.
Taking care of about a thousand sheep is not easy. The shepherd goes to the fields and mountains every day to search out the scattered sheep. To locate the sheep, he asks every passer-by about the whereabouts of the sheep. He can’t contain the joy in it when he finds one, but smiles from ear to ear.
The shepherd very much loves the sheep. He never takes the sheep’s eyes off him. Sheep are very gentle, very gentle creatures. A gentle person is described by Mongolians as a sheep.
Though they get wounds and hurt, the sheep suffer without causing fuss. Often, they are faithful. Goats go in risky ways without following the shepherd’s instructions, as they want, but the sheep listen to the shepherd’s voice and obey as the shepherd leads. In the same way, sheep still obey the shepherd and grow in love with him.
Just as in the place where the best water and grass are, the shepherd tends the sheep, the Heavenly Father and Mother feed us and raise us with the best pasture, the words of creation. Our mother, who gives birth to us, prays for us even at midnight and at dawn, as the shepherd does not sleep late at night or at dawn for the lambs to be born and cares for the barn.
The shepherd keeps his attention on the flock and always stays with his sheep to shield them from the wolves that are like a shadow surrounding the sheep. It’s just like the Mother who holds us like the apple of Her eye, so that false prophets who are like wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing will not harm us. Just like the sheep that can not see because the birds peck at their eyes confuse the shepherd for wolves when the shepherd approaches them and trembles in terror, even though She has come, the children whose eyes are spiritually veiled do not know Mother right away. Mother loves, however, the souls that are hurt like wolves by the evil spirits, heals them, and allows all Her efforts to save their lives.
Beyond definition is the joy of the shepherd as he discovers his missing sheep. Joy is what our mother feels when she discovers the child she’s missing.
The shepherd shares with his sheep the joy, rage, sadness, and pleasure of his life. The shepherd is sincerely pleased when the flock is safe and well-fed. The shepherd feels heartbroken when the sheep is sick. The shepherd thinks about it because there is no grass to feed the sheep. I understand how much the Father and the Mother, the Shepherds of our hearts, love us, because I know how the shepherd feels even a little more. I will be a faithful son who follows our Shepherds, the Heavenly Father and Mother, wherever they lead me like sheep. Mother and Dad, I love you.
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